Major European grant for exploration of quantum matter

A University of Nottingham physicist has won a prestigious €1.5 million European grant for a major new research project to increase our understanding of quantum matter and pave the way for future technologies and materials to be developed.

Dr Igor Lesanovsky, Associate Professor and Reader in the School of Physics, has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant which supports up-and-coming research leaders who want to establish their own team for independent research in Europe.

Dr Lesanovsky will use the five year grant to conduct a research programme at the intersection points of atomic physics, quantum optics, condensed matter and statistical physics which will shed more light on the behaviour of quantum matter in and out of equilibrium. The work could open up new pathways for fundamental research in modern ‘high’ or ‘nano’ technology as well as in the world of quantum computing.

The research will delve into the mysteries of quantum mechanics and will explore in particular how quantum effects determine the behaviour of matter formed by cold and at the same time highly excited atoms.

Dr Lesanovsky said: “I am delighted to receive the ERC Starting Grant which will allow me to assemble a strong team of scientists to carry out research in this very novel and exciting area of physics. The award of the grant is a great success not only for myself but also acknowledges the recent achievements of a number of researchers in theoretical physics at the School of Physics and Astronomy. It shows that we are on track to establishing a strong and broadly recognised condensed matter theory group.”

The project will open up new horizons for fundamental research and at the same time will pave the way for future technologies and materials which rely on non-equilibrium phenomena within correlated quantum matter. A broad theoretical research programme will directly connect to the most recent experimental research efforts in ultra cold atomic physics. Here currently a step change is taking place where indeed new experiments explore strongly correlated quantum physics using highly excited atoms around which the ideas of this ERC research grant are centred.

Dr Lesanovsky added: “By exploiting this unique moment we will ensure that we are not only doing blue sky theoretical research but that our findings are actually tested in current experiments. This will ensure a vivid exchange of ideas between experiment and theory which will lead to research that attacks the frontiers of current knowledge.”

Professor Richard Bowtell, Head of the School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “The competition for ERC Starting Grants is extremely tough, so winning this grant is a tremendous success for Dr Lesanovsky, which demonstrates his status as one of the leading young researchers in his field. This status has also been recognised by the University in promoting to Dr Lesanovsky to full Professor from August of this year.  The research which Dr Lesanovsky plans to carry out on his ERC grant should produce a real advance in our understanding of quantum many-body systems, which will open up exciting new opportunities for experimental research and technological developments in Nottingham and elsewhere.”

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